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Poster: bkidwell Date: May 25, 2011 10:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 20 seems to be the magic number...

I agree with all that, and personally, I have a love for ultra-extended versions. I love the 5/21/74 Playin, the 12/6/73 Dark Star, the 4/26/72 Other One, and similar lengthy journeys. I think in the long Dark Stars and Other Ones, the sung verses actually act as the kind of musical dividing point between sections. I always feel the start of a verse as an "arrival" and then the resumption of improvisation as a "departure".

The context of the DF Tovey concepts about the aesthetics of music also makes reference to Wagner's operas, which may be up to 4 hours of almost continuous music. In a lot of ways my way of hearing the GD is that they actually took up the construction of large scale musical forms from the point at which Mahler and Wagner had stopped, and found a way to integrate a larger range of musical and sonic materials.

I wasn't meaning to say that a given "song" shouldn't last longer than 20 minutes, but rather that the limitations of the human attention span for focused listening of a particular kind creates a constraint that actually serves as a source of artistic inspiration. The way the band constructed its shows as a mix of songs, songs with improvisational aspects, and open jams was how this worked out in practice. As you observe, the "proportions" of a show were in constant flux.

I think the tension between a certain idealized concept of "the perfect dead show" and musical accessibility is real. In some ways I always dream of the show that is basically two hours of the Watkins Glen soundcheck jam - just completely spontaneous music that still moves between different themes and you could still dance to it. At the same time, maybe that is a distortion of what the Grateful Dead were really about, because I don't think such a thing would have been pleasing to the majority of the audience at any point in the band's career, really - and when I think deeply about the aesthetic issues, abandoning the rock genre in favor of 100% jazz/classical/improv experimental music would have been a bad idea.

A big aspect of the magic of the band was hearing straightforward rock music imperceptibly transform itself into something totally different, and a lot would have been lost by giving up that foundation. In some ways this is related to the "never the same without Pig" trope, because everyone acknowledges that Pig taught the band the blues.

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Poster: splue Date: May 25, 2011 11:40pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 20 seems to be the magic number...

yeh, &why is it that when u see some bands & they break into a jam at the end of a song or its a weird cover just played like %$# for a joke it ends up being the most fun/memorable part of the whole concert??? it amazes me